You’ve got an idea that will make you millions, right? Or, maybe you just want to make a little extra money on the side doing something you enjoy. Whatever your solopreneur goal is, I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that anyone can make it these days with hard work and basic business sense. The bad news is that the things that used to be “a must” for building a new business don’t matter as much anymore.
It’s not really bad news, though, because there’s never been a better time for a solopreneur like you to turn an idea or a hobby into a real money maker. In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau found more than 35,000 solopreneurs were making over $1 million in 2015. The key in getting yourself out there is using modern marketing techniques that work for you.
Back in the day, you had to have deep pockets to get your business off the ground. You had to have a professionally designed website, an office with an assistant, and professionally printed business cards. But those times have changed. The cost of starting a business as a solopreneur is now down to nearly zero.
For starters, Forbes tells us that most people throw business cards in the trash these days. Why go through the hassle of printing cards and carrying around pieces of paper when exchanging and updating contact information with your phone is so quick and easy?
The flip side to these changes is that there is a lot of competition among other entrepreneurs who want to attract the same clients and have the same low cost startup advantage as you. What you need instead is a way to be visible and accessible to lots of potential clients. You need to be where your clients are, digitally, not physically. The best place to start is with an online presence supported by tools like Google My Business and Instagram.
According to Google, local searches bring in more sales than searches that are more general. That means if you can get your business to show up in local search results, you will get more targeted leads. You need to register your company on Google and Yelp, and for good measure, you should include Bing and Yahoo! as well. Listings are free, so get your company’s information listed immediately. Being found is the first step toward winning in your market.
The most important way for your business to compete for new clients is to create the best possible customer experience. The service you provide should be what truly sets you apart from the competition. Your pricing also has to be reasonable (and note I intentionally didn’t say it must be the lowest). However, for the service you provide, it should provide the best value.
The new marketing
Good news! You don’t always have to seek out your own customers anymore. There are marketplaces already set up to connect customers with local providers. From Thumbtack to Angie’s List, the lead generation is done for you. Although finding potential customers is easier than ever, it’s still up to you to turn leads into money.
As you close sales, make sure to ask customers to leave reviews for you on the website where they found you and on Google. Reviews are currency for solopreneurs, and they make you look appealing to future potential customers. You can also respond to reviews by thanking your customers and offering to make anything right that was less than ideal. Building credibility this way will also bring you more business.
Make it quick and easy
Once you start getting traffic from new leads, you’ve got to make the sales process as simple as possible. Whether your customers are booking time with you or buying a product from you, this process has to be seamless. Convenience is key, and if you’re not following up on a lead within five minutes, you’ll lose the sale.
At all costs, avoid making customers call you or come to you in person to get their questions answered. Nothing will shut down a sale quicker than overcomplicating the process. Everything a customer needs to do should be possible from a mobile phone, including scheduling and payments. If at all possible, make it all text-based. No one likes talking on the phone anymore these days, especially prospective customers.
Here’s a great example: One of our customers repairs iPhones. He used to spend too much time on the phone helping people diagnose their troubles, when he could have been making a repair (and money!) in that time. But by making everything text-based, he is getting repair work booked and paid without having to go through the process of talking to customers and convincing them to work with him.
The point is that anyone can succeed in running their own business. You don’t have to have a lot of money or experience; you’ve just got to understand how customers think. It shouldn’t be too much of a stretch, since you’re a consumer yourself: just ask yourself what you like most about the businesses that you work with. With a strong online presence, access to marketplaces, great reviews and an easy way to book or buy from you, you can meet your entrepreneurial goals.